Breaking the Stigma: A 12-Year-Old’s Experience with Anxiety

I think at one time or another we have all had to deal with some form of anxiety. You may not have known the name of it, but you knew something was off.

Sometimes it comes in the form of not being sure of yourself and your abilities, sometimes it’s being afraid of doing things you know deep down you can do but your head tells you that you can’t.

In my experience, it came as a feeling as if I would fail. Feeling like you’re incapable. Feeling like you’re worthless.

I know it’s hard to get over those feelings. People always tell you to “just be happy.” They’re trying to be nice but sometimes doing that just makes it worse.

Talking to people about it is hard but it is such a relief to get it off your chest. (I’m saying this to myself as much as I’m saying it to you.) It might feel like you’re burdening them, and it might feel like they don’t care, but if they act like that, they don’t deserve you. We all get into a state like that, but I promise you that you are strong enough to get through this.

My tips are to have a support group, (mine are my family and friends) Also have someone whom you can share everything with (mine is my sister) and try to see the positive in things.

You are amazing. You are worth it. You can get through it.

~Bella, 12

overcoming anxiety

When my 12-year-old little sister asked if she could support ACRPM by writing an article on her experience with anxiety, I told her very candidly about what I had experienced when I shared my story. I wanted to ensure she (and our parents) were making an informed decision on sharing her mental health journey.

I told them how I have received a lot of backlash on LinkedIn for being candid about my own experiences with anxiety, panic attacks, and at the lowest point in my mental health journey, suicidal ideations. I was told things like “you will ruin your career”, “no one will hire you if they know you have anxiety”, “you’ll be seen as a liability”, even “you need to be mindful of our company’s reputation, and your own reputation when posting mental health information like this on social media.”

I went on to also tell them about the positive feedback I have received from so many others: love, support, kindness, and people sharing their stories with me because they felt safe. I have had phone conversations with individuals I have never met who felt more comfortable talking to me about their struggles with their mental health than their families. I have walked alongside strangers from the internet in some of their darkest hours to help them see a shred of light. So, for me, if I help one person feel less alone in this journey then it is worth the risk for me.

Bella looked at me with a big smile on her face and said “Sissy, you’re gonna help a lot of people. I want to tell my story so I can help too.” Our family talks openly and honestly about mental health, the same way we talk about diabetes and cancer, so she saw nothing scary about telling her story because to her it is just like any other health condition.

Breaking the stigma surrounding mental health challenges is crucial, but it is not an easy feat. We can start by taking simple steps, like talking about your mental health struggles and asking our friends and colleagues if they are really okay. I will always be that ear to anyone who needs it, but we should all want to be that safe space for our family and friends.

With some bravery, we can all be a little more like Bella and share our scary moments, the moments that don’t make the social media highlight reel, to make this a regular conversation in our world.

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